Alongside other preventive measures, wearing a face mask may help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Different types of mask are available for people to wear during the current pandemic.
In this article, we discuss face mask research and different types of face mask. We also answer other frequently asked questions.
Currently, research suggests that the novel coronavirus spreads primarily via respiratory droplets.
According to the
Although the science around the effectiveness of face masks is not definitive, these items likely offer some protection from the coronavirus. The authors of one
It is possible, therefore, that widespread use of face masks by the public might help slow the spread of the virus. The
In addition to face masks, it is important to continue following other preventive measures, such as regular hand washing and physical distancing.
These settings may include:
- hospitals and other healthcare settings
- grocery stores
Like the CDC, the
They also recommend that people aged 60 and over and people with existing medical conditions wear medical masks when physical distancing is not possible.
Medical masks are a critical source for healthcare workers and others who need them the most. When medical masks are in short supply, the WHO say that they should be reserved for healthcare workers and at-risk individuals.
People are currently using three main types of face mask:
- surgical mask
- respirators, such as N95, FFP2, or the equivalent
- cloth face coverings
A surgical face mask is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) that generally fits loosely over the nose and mouth. These masks shield against large cough or sneeze droplets, splashes, or sprays, but they cannot protect against smaller droplets.
People should refrain from sharing these masks, which can come with or without a face shield.
Seal-tested respirator masks include the N95 and other FFP2/3 forms.
These masks have tangled fibers to filter pathogens in the air, and they fit very close to the face. The edges form a seal around the mouth and nose.
The general public should not use these masks as they are in critical supply. Only healthcare workers should use them.
Cloth face coverings
People can make these masks using a variety of fabrics and items of clothing, including scarves, bandanas, T-shirts, and pillowcases. A tightly woven cotton fabric is most suitable.
Research on various fibers, including cotton, silk, chiffon, flannel, and various synthetics, showed that a combination of different fabrics was most effective.
Several online guides and videos are available to provide instructions to people wishing to make a DIY face covering.
Some methods involve sewing, but others do not. Most methods require similar materials, such as scissors, measuring tape, and cloth.
Although applying a face mask sounds simple, some common mistakes are easy to make while wearing one. The CDC list some
- ensure that the face covering does not cause difficulty breathing
- check that the face mask covers both the nose and mouth
- make sure that a person can tighten or secure the covering to prevent it from slipping
- fit the covering snugly, so there are no gaps
- wash the face covering after each use
Below, we answer some commonly asked questions about face masks.
Where can I buy a face mask?
Medical grade face masks are generally for those working on the healthcare frontline. Nonmedical, reusable fabric face masks are available to the general public. People can also make cloth face coverings at home.
Will a face covering stop me from getting the new coronavirus?
No, it will not. The face mask is a preventive measure, and its primary use is to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It is also important to wash the hands regularly and continue to follow physical distancing guidelines.
Is there anyone who should not wear a face mask?
Should I wash my cloth face coverings?
Yes. Washing after every use is very important.
To wash cloth face coverings, the
Why can I not wear a medical face mask or N95 respirator?
Medical masks are a critical source for healthcare workers and others who need them the most. When medical masks are in short supply, the
The consensus in the medical community is that face masks may help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
The effectiveness of different face masks can vary. If a person is likely to be in proximity to others for an extended period, a face mask is highly recommended.
In addition to face masks, people should diligently follow other key recommendations, such as washing the hands regularly and keeping a physical distance where possible.
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